Deputy Speaker and hon Deputy President, section 11 of our Constitution decrees that "Everyone has the right to life."
Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, Act 51 of 1977 determines the circumstances in which a police officer may use force in arresting a suspect, and the extent of the force that may be "reasonably necessary" in the circumstances.
In 1998 this Parliament approved the text that is being amended by the Bill before us. In 2002 the Constitutional Court, in the State v Walters judgment, declared section 49(2) of the old text as being unconstitutional. In the meantime the use of lethal force by the members of the South African Police has caused much controversy and created legal uncertainty.
In order to address that uncertainty, the portfolio committee has agreed that the new section 49 be aligned with the criteria laid down by Justice Kriegler of our Constitutional Court. These are: that the purpose of arrest is to bring before court for trial persons suspected of having committed offences; that arrest is not the only means of achieving this purpose, nor always the best; that arrest may never be used to punish a suspect; that where arrest is called for, force may be used only where it is necessary in order to carry out the arrest; that where force is necessary, only the last degree of force reasonably necessarily to carry out the arrest may be used; that in deciding what degree of force is both reasonable and necessary, all the circumstances must be taken into account and such force must be proportional in all those circumstances; that shooting a suspect solely in order to carry out an arrest is permitted in very limited circumstances only; that ordinarily such shooting is not permitted unless the suspect poses a threat of violence to the arrestor or others, or is suspected on reasonable grounds of having committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious bodily harm, and there are no other reasonable means of carrying out the arrest, whether at that time or later; and that these limitations in no way detract from the rights of an arrestor attempting to carry out an arrest to kill a suspect in self-defence or in defence of another person.
The portfolio committee was also of the unanimous view that, regardless of how eloquently or elegantly section 49 may be drafted, at the end of the day it all comes down to one thing: training, training and more training. Members of the portfolio committee expressed concern at the adequacy of training police officers receive, particularly in the use of firearms and the circumstances in which the use of deadly force is justified. Consequently, a definition of deadly force has been inserted in section 49(1). The portfolio committee was unanimous in its approval of this Bill, and we commend it to this honourable House. Thank you. [Applause.] There was no debate.
Declarations of vote: